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Dillon, Colorado, United States

Mount Bierstadt

A Perfect Beginner Fourteener

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    This guide contains photos
 (7 votes, 3 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 6.9 miles / 11.1 km
Duration: Half day
Dog Friendly
Overview: Nestled in the heart of the Front Range mountains, and with superb access from the Denver metropolis, Mount Bierstadt is a terrific adventure for the weekend warrior. If you are looking to climb your first fourteener, or make your first fourteener ski descent, this is the peak for you.
Named after Albert Bierstatdt a famous painter of western landscapes, Mount Bierstadt has long been a favorite hike of outdoor enthusiasts. Over the years, it has become a classic day trip for beginner and intermediate hikers, and on weekends the slopes can become quite crowded.
Bierstadt can be climbed throughout the year, but to beginners I only recommend attempting the peak in the summer and early fall. With wonderful access from either I-70 or Highway 285, the peak can easily be done in a day from any town or city along the front range.
Bierstadt also makes a great beginner/intermediate ski descent, but should only be attempted by those with the appropriate avalanche and back-country skiing education. Dogs are permitted upon the slopes of Bierstadt, but must be under voice command. Bierstadt offers breathtaking views of the Front Range mountains at a moderate and enjoyable pace.

Tips: Access to Bierstadt is best from the top of Guanella Pass, where there is an obvious parking lot and restroom. As of June 2010, Guanella Pass is closed due to construction from the Georgetown side near I-70, and is scheduled to be closed until October of 2010. However, the other side of Guanella Pass is open and be accessed right off highway 285 in the town of Grant.
Hikers: The weather in Colorado can change in the blink of an eye. I recommend getting an early morning start, having checked the weather for the day, and bringing appropriate clothing. Lightening above timberline is a serious threat and danger, and if you feel a storm may threaten your attempt, please turn around to ensure you can hike another day. Bring plenty of food and water, sunscreen, hat, an extra layer, and a rain coat.
Skiers: Please do not attempt my routes without a solid education in avalanche awareness. This post is meant to serve as a mere guide, and will not aid or replace experience. If you wish to gain knowledge or experience in back-country skiing, please contact me and I can recommend institutions which can help teach you.

Points of Interest


The Willows

These beautiful and pleasant wetland shrubs can be objects of endless frustration. The notorious "Willows" almost completely surround Bierstadt. As long as you stick to the trail they are no problem, but if you stray they can take hours trying to navigate. If you are making a ski descent, make sure you find the trail before the headwall.

Photo 1: Mr. Trout staying high and dry above the willows and wetlands.

Photo 2: The Willows from above the headwall

The Headwall

This will be the first true gauge of your personal fitness. If this pitch saps your energy and makes you question your ability, you might want to turn around.
Skiers, this is a good spot to evaluate snow conditions and dig snow pits.

The Western Flank

At the top of the Headwall, the trail meanders through rocky tundra and snow fields towards the South ridge of Bierstadt. It may be difficult to find a definitive trail through here especially with snow, but look for rock cairns to help guide you towards the South ridge. The magnificent Sawtooth Ridge that connects Bierstadt to it's sister fourteener Mount Evans will now come into view, and you might just have a little company.
Photo 1: Sawtooth Ridge
Photo 2: Trout and I ran into some curious ptarmigan during our ascent.

The South Ridge

The homestretch! Pick your way through the boulders and snow towards the obvious summit. You might find a cornice to your right so give yourself room. Skiers, this is most likely where you will make your first turns from the summit, so it is not a bad idea to start thinking about where your line needs to go.

Photo: Trout strutting down the South Ridge.

The Summit

Take in the majesty of your ascent and the Front Range. Check out Mount Evans to the North-East and the highest paved road in the lower 48. On a clear day you can see the neighboring fourteeners Grays and Torreys to the West. Don't forget to find and sign the registry before you start heading down.

Photo 1: Trout taking in the summit views.
Photo 2: Mount Evans with her road and observatory.

The Descent

For the hikers, follow your ascent route down and enjoy the gorgeous high country vistas of the front range.
Skiers, all your hard work is about to pay off. Bierstadt can be notorious for scarce snow, so you might need to continually traverse and patch your line into connecting snowfields. Expert skiers can also try dropping into the Northern Bowl if conditions permit, but your return route to the parking lot could be a challenge.

Check out Mr. Trout ripping that spring corn!
Pictures in this guide taken by: watenpae
fantastic place and beautiful sites

by inqueba on Jun 05, 2015
awesome place... must visit everyone

by planetwi36 on Oct 19, 2014
Make sure you get there early. Its amazing Climb. The Ridge on the Sawtooth is something to Behold.
Visited on Jul 14, 2012

by sjmaltz on Jul 25, 2012

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About the Author

2 guides
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I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains around Telluride, Colorado and still consider it my true...
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